CHICAGO -- When it comes to heart and hustle, many Kansas City fans think first of left fielder Alex Gordon.
So it was no surprise on Tuesday when Gordon was named winner of the Royals' 2014 Heart and Hustle Award by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
One player from each Major League club was selected for his passion, desire and work ethic in baseball and one who best embodies the values, spirit and tradition of the game. It is the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.
This is the third time that Gordon has won the Royals' award.
"It means a lot that it's just not one year that people notice and that it's more than a one-year thing," Gordon said. "It's what I try to do every day, come to the field as the same person whether I'm in a slump or the hottest guy in baseball. So maybe people have noticed."
Gordon's work ethic has become legendary. Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz said that Gordon arrives at the ballpark well before even the coaching staff arrives and opens the door for them.
"He's exaggerating a little bit, he's being a little bit too nice," Gordon said. "But I am one of the first ones here. It's all about a routine and preparation. I'm one of those guys who if a game doesn't go well and I'm not prepared, then I won't be able to sleep at night. As long as I'm prepared and I know that I've done everything in my power to succeed out there and help the team, then, I'm OK."
Gordon has an extensive work routine that seldom varies.
"How does a guy sustain about eight months of doing this much work and still be able to perform at the level he does? It's incredible how much time he puts into his preparation," Kuntz said. "Then once the game starts, it's even more impressive how hard he plays the game."
Gordon points to his demotion to Triple-A Omaha in 2010 as a turning point for him.
"You're playing professional baseball so if you can't get up for that or get excited about that, then there's something wrong with you," Gordon said. "I think I had a reality shot back when I got sent down because this thing can be taken away just like that -- and it was. You need to be happy every day you're here and take it for all it's worth."
An overall Heart and Hustle winner will be selected late in the season in vote by fans, alumni and active players and will be announced on Nov. 18. The previous winners were David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, '07), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Mike Trout (2012) and Dustin Pedroia (2013).
"I've never managed anybody who exemplifies the Heart and Hustle Award more than Alex Gordon," manager Ned Yost said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.